As anyone might know if they've lived in France for any amount of time: the be all and end all of French administration is identity. Proving who you are is of the utmost importance. Contrary to common belief 'identity papers' do not prove who you are legally speaking. Apparently, according to the French State, for administrative purposes, the only document that attests to who you are is the birth certificate (extrait d'acte de naissance) that you were given at birth, and that is registered at the local town hall where you were born.
The French can and have to obtain a copy of this produced by the town hall. It's free of charge as a service. What is different to the General Registrar Office in the United Kingdom, for example, and the French État civil is that the French birth certificates are added to constantly in the margins. That's to say that when a person is born, they are followed throughout their lives by the French administration for the État civil, and at each marriage, divorce or death, there is information that is added the margins to those documents; It is precisely for this reason that the French authorities ask for a birth certificate that dates from under perhaps 3 months or 6 months. It will include the most up-to-date information and therefore, in theory, prove who you are and what you have done with regards to civil registration.
The problem occurs for the British, for example, who have birth certificates that are unaltered from birth and never added to. Sometimes, it's difficult to understand why the French authorities might be asking for an original document. You should never send an original that dates from the year of your birth or the moment of your marriage. They will never send it back and they will never accept it. You will have to apply to the General Registrar's Office. Firstly, you'll need to find the reference number for your birth certificate in order to make the application. You can go to various sites to do that. It takes about two weeks for the certificate to come through and this is the original copy that the French authorities will need. You cannot download a digital copy immediately and send that to the French administration, as they will consider it to be invalid. They will just refuse it and may never give you an explanation, since they do not understand why they are not being given a valid copy, as a French national would.
You will probably also need a sworn translation. A sworn translator or traducteur assermenté, is a qualified translator that has been recognised by a Court of Appeal in France to serve as a legal expert. There are lists of official translators at each Court of Appeal and every one of them has sworn an oath before a judge at the Court of Appeal to abide by certain regulations and to always honestly and truthfully provide an exact translation. They will always put an official stamp on the translation and it should look exactly like the original. It should be signed and dated with a reference number, also. Even if someone is a translator, if they are not a recognised translator at a Court of Appeal, the document will not be valid.
Sworn translators are always associated and registered with a particular Court of Appeal, which is normally nearest to their address. However, they can work at a national level and as such do translations all over the country. French administration may ask to have birth, marriage and death certificates translated, as well as deed polls, decrees absolute or final orders, proxies, power of attorneys, or medical documents, amongst many others.
As a sworn official translator and legal expert at the Court of Appeal of Agen, I can translate all your documents for French administration purposes. I also regularly translate for notaires and their clients. Prices range according to what needs to be done and the deadline that has to be adhered to. A digital copy is always sent and then a paper copy is sent by courier suivi, so that you can track it. According to the needs of the client, translations can be provided usually within 2-3 days and then 1-2 days for postal delivery. However, it is always possible to provide a translation for emergencies in a very short space of time and have it sent by special fast delivery. The translations I will provide are also valid anywhere in the world that requires French administrative translations to be provided for them.
Get in touch for any questions and I will gladly help you out.
I am a sworn translator from English to French and French to English.
+33 6 72 49 45 14
Traducteur assermenté ENG-FR et FR-ENG, Cour d'appel d'Agen